P&H HC | State can make policy with regard to resident of State with no interference by the Court; restricted definition of NRI upheld

Punjab and Haryana High Court: The Division Bench comprising of Harinder Singh Sidhu & Arun Monga, JJ. dismissed the writ petition on the ground that there was no legal infirmity in the action of the State of Punjab to adopt the wider definition of the NRI in the domain of policymaking.

A writ petition was made against Clause 17 of the Notification whereby, definition and scope of Non-Resident Indian (NRI) have been restricted to include only an NRI and/or children of NRI.

The facts of the case were that the petitioner took the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (for short ‘NEET’) conducted for admission to MBBS/BDS in medical colleges situated all over India including the State of Punjab. The petitioner qualified the cut off marks prescribed in the examination and was eligible to apply for admission in the medical colleges. The petitioner was primarily aggrieved by the action of the State in excluding the first degree relations of NRI and wards thereof from the realm of the definition of ‘NRI’.

Pankaj Bansal, Counsel for the petitioner submits that by restricting the Category I to mean ‘an NRI and/or children of NRI’ results in hostile discrimination towards the students in the State of Punjab. NRI reservation was provided in all the medical colleges of India wherein a wider meaning has been given to word ‘NRI’ by including the first degree relations of NRI and wards of NRI within the meaning of word ‘NRI’. Learned counsel for the petitioner has also emphatically argued that restriction on the scope of the word ‘NRI’ has no reasonable nexus with the objectives sought to be achieved. He submits that if the scope of the definition of NRI is widened then the wider pool of talent would be available and the same will thus advance the requisite merit. The petitioner put reliance on the case of  P.A. Inamdar v. State of Maharashtra, (2005) 6 SCC 537, wherein the Supreme Court has discussed the definition of NRI.

Rashmi Attri and M.S. Longia, Counsels for the respondents opposed the impugned notification on the ground that there are quite a large number of NRIs and in its wisdom, the State Government had rightly restricted the scope of the definition of NRI to mean either ‘an NRI or children of the NRI’. Enlarging the scope of the same to first degree relatives and/ or the wards of the NRI would open flood gates for the applicants to seek the benefit of NRI quota.

High Court thus opined that purpose of narrowing down the definition of ‘NRI’ vide clause 17, does not miss the very ratio laid down in Inamdar’s case, inasmuch as, it has been clearly laid down by the Apex Court that under the garb of NRI quota less meritorious students who can afford to spend more money get admission even though neither the student is an NRI nor his/ her parents are NRIs.

Thus, the Court was of the opinion that the purpose of restricting the definition is to give weightage only to the genuine cases where the children of those parents who have migrated to other countries to get the benefit of education in their native country. Court further added that “we also do not find any merit in the argument that the narrowing of the scope of the definition of ‘NRI’ by the State is hostile discrimination qua the students of Punjab. It is open for the State Government to make any policy with regard to the residents of the State and no interference is warranted by this Court in the domain of policymaking. It is up to the State to widen or narrow the scope of the definition of ‘NRI’ and such exercise of power would not amount to any discrimination.” Thus the petition was dismissed.[Asmita Kaur v. State of Punjab, 2019 SCC OnLine P&H 937, decided on 26-06-2019]

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